Pal frame format dilema...


Guys, I’ve started a short film, which I hope to see light of day for a DVD Pal release. But I really want it in a widescreen format.

I know that the standard resolution for Pal is 720 X 576, but that doesn’t make it widescreen. I did however came across the “letter-box” resolution of 736 x 398. It appears to be what I need.

Is there any issues with this resolution? Something I haven’t considered?

Also, there is something else I don’t quite understand. The resolution for Pal output is 720 x 576…is that the absolute maximum size? Because I hear about DVDs having a fantastic digital output and that widescreen is the prefered version of viewing - I wonder if having it in widescreen would have less resolution?

I find all this resolution stuff a little confusing at times… :sad:


720 x 576 is standard tv resolution; images on a PAL tv will look pretty sharp and really nice on the screen; dvds have a higher resolution. It will come out fullscreen on the telly.

the 736 wide screen format size will probably work too - it all depends ultimately on what sort of viewing area you want to use - if you go widescreen, your in-scene camera will have to be according adjusted/cropped (SET SAFEFRAME) when you do your blocking.

That said, it doesn’t hurt (if you have the resouces) to render it a little bigger (which allows for things like camera shake in post;). and then to resize the lot in post.

and most players will play the images/movie to their width So if you output the longformat (736x3xx) the image should look like a widescreen feature on the telly.


hi boone, havent chatted to you in ages, how are the london meet ups going?

anyway, maybe i can help.

for pal dvd there is two ways that you can do it. you can go for the simpler option and render images at 768x432 (720x432) and then export these using your video edeting software to 720x576 and have black borders at the top and bottom. this is the way it used to be done with vhs.

the other more complicated way is to make an anamorphic dvd. this basicly ends up with a res of 1024x576, but it squeezes it horizontally to 720x576 in the mpeg2 file. a widescreen tv can then stretch this back out to 1024x576 for a full res image. if you want to do it this way then you can either render to 1024x576 and let you vid software squeeze it down or render to 720x576 but use a pixel ratio of 1.422. i hope this is all making sense

you must also make sure your vid software can export an anamorphic mpeg2 file and that you dvd burning software can make a anamorphic dvd.

sorry for all the spelling mistakes too :buttrock:


Widescreen PAL format is still 720x576, it’s just given a 16/9 format instead of a 4/3.

You should be able to change this in your camera options. I would definitely render this way as I had the fortune to have a film shown on itv but it was butchered becuase it was 4/3 aspect ratio. Everone’s tvs are widecscreen these days so go with the 16/9 and use a 4/3 action safe zone.

If you are going to render using square pixels then go with 1024x576, which is true 16/9 format - if you lower the number of pixels you will save on render time but your picture quality will be pretty shoddy.


Thanks guys for replying, BTW! :cool:

Okay, I tried rendering out at 1024x576 - obviously the detail is very high quality. I had a 90frame animation to test out, and then comes another problem - what movie/animation file format do I go for?

I tried two of them - “Full frame” avi, and “DivX” avi. The Full frame looks way cleaner and I’ve come to the conclusion that DivX looks crap.

What is the common DVD format used? The Full frame version takes up 150+ mb for just 3seconds( running at 24fps - I’ll can change it 25, if need be)!

If it looks good on a 32inch WideScreen TV and it can play on every DVD player, I’ll be a happy man. :love:


Oooo dvd compression, that’s a whole different kettle of fish and one that I’ve yet to face :blush:

What you need to do is render the whole thing out as an uncompressed image sequence and then try downloading a few dvd codecs (rather than the usual divx, mpeg, mov ones), which you can find on the web somewhere, then experiment to your heart’s content - best off using a piece of dvd creation software, I’ve heard good things about the adobe offering, but there’s a cheapo piece of kit on the divx website which seems like it might do the job - no experience with it mind you.

Divx is actually pretty good at what it does which is create very low size compressed video for web publishing, but it’s not the right choice for dvd…

Good luck and hope there is someone out here who knows a bit more than me about creating dvds!


The thing that works for me is a resolution of 720*405. That’s 16/9 frame format. Here’s a shot of a short film I’ve made using that resolution and it looks nice.


Your widescreen telly doesn’t expand your 720x576 image to 1024x576, it just has “fat pixels”, i.e. pixels which are a lot wider than they are tall. If you render your frames as 720x576 with a pixel aspect ratio of 1.422:1 you will get an image on your computer monitor that looks squashed so everything appears tall and thin. A widescreen TV then makes all the picture’s pixels wider as it displays them so that the image appears in proportion.

Strictly speaking even if you work in 4x3 you need to either use a pixel aspect ratio of 1.067:1 or render out images at 768x576 as standard TVs have slightly “fat pixels” and if you don’t account for this in your renders, balls will not appear circular on your TV.

DVD compression is nothing clever, it’s just MPEG-2. What makes bought DVDs look better than your average MPEG movie is the very expensive compression hardware and software DVD firms use. When I used to design DVDs back in the early days of the medium the Panasonic authoring and encoding harware and software cost an absolute fortune. These days you can get a decent compressor in many home-user packages. So there’s no mystery, it isn’t high resolution, it’s just a plain PAL MPEG-2 movie muxed with its sound to form a disk image.

Hope that helps,



I must say thank you to all of you chaps. Drinks( digital, of course! ) all round! :beer:

Extra thanks to Andrew W on the file-format issue. You are a Gentleman! :cool:


Guys - I’ve got it. Just wanted to check with you all on this…

I’m going for a widescreen aspect of 2.35:1, so if I use 720432 for the actual render, but place it on a black-background of 720576, along with the pixel aspect of 1.422 - it will maintain the 2.35:1 frame aspect? :shrug:


Er, no, they were talking about consumer widescreen. Are you really sure you want 2.35:1 ? that is a ver very wide screen and will look silly played on most computer and tv screens.


Re: Imashination.

Hmm…looking at most widescreen films on DVD, they have an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Also, I don’t quite understand what you mean by “they were talking about consumer widescreen”…what difference is there? :surprised


Most widescreen movies are done at 1.85:1 not 2.35, which is one of the reasons why they picked 16:9 for HDTV(1.77:1). 2.35 is used on far less movies, usually big budget cinematic movies. 1.66 is also popular for animated kids movies.


Right, then - there seems to be something that I simply don’t understand.

“League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen”
“The Patriot”

The PAL DVD releases have both “Widescreen Edition: 16:9” AND “2.35:1” on the back cover. Yet on some others it has 16:9 and 1.85:1…

I understand the aspect ratio when you all talk about “2.35:1”, “1.85:1” etc, but the “16:9” eludes me…it certainly cannot be the aspect ratio, thats for sure… :argh:


You know what eludes me, you own a copy of Underworld. Beh. :slight_smile:


Re: DannyDreams.

Can we have our cherished “movie chin-wag” elsewhere, please? I really need to stay on topic here, my production is at stake…a little:beer:

( Underworld isn’t that bad, but it could have been better…) :cool:


lol, sorry you know I can’t resist when comes to you boone. :twisted:


The PAL DVD releases have both “Widescreen Edition: 16:9” AND “2.35:1” on the back cover. Yet on some others it has 16:9 and 1.85:1…

I understand the aspect ratio when you all talk about “2.35:1”, “1.85:1” etc, but the “16:9” eludes me…it certainly cannot be the aspect ratio, thats for sure… :argh:
Those are all big scifi or epic movies. They only make up 10% of the movies that come out every year.

As for the 16:9 and 1.85, many movies shown in the states are cropped at 1:85 but the same movie is cropped at 1.66 in Europe. When we do visualfx for film we always do it to 1.6(unless it is cinescope). Almost everything is filmed at 4:3 and croped to whatever aspect ratio they decide on. Anyways, the point is 16:9 was a happy medium between the two that some standards board decided on.


hey Boone, just wanted to give the rundown on the way i think is the best to go.

if you still want to go with 2.35:1… that’s no problem, you can get the highest quality this way:

  • render your frame at 720x432. you need to render with the aspect ratio at 2.35 and pixel aspect at 1.333, this gives you a vertically stretched frame

    in post you need to add black bars on top and at the bottom to get the frame to 720x576

the result will be exactly the same type of frame you will find on most hollywood dvds (with a 2.35 aspect ratio) the advantage of this method is it uses the maximum available screen space

in your dvd authoring tool and mpeg2 encoder (check out ‘tmpegenc’, cheap & good) there will be some aspect ratio options, you need to set that to ‘16:9 Pan & Scan’ for dvd players to recognize this type of frame. this is part of the dvd specifiction so any player will understand it, it’s independent of the tv and will work on ancient 4:3 sets as well. computers too.

now a 16:9 TV will stretch your frame. if you use the above mentioned settings it will come out exactly right.

a 4:3 TV will squeeze your frame vertically, and will add additional black bars itself, again your image will come out right.


I think Aearon has the solution I need, but I think its wise for me to also consider the 1.85:1 aspect as well. If do end up using 1.85:1 ratio, what would be the pixel ratio that I would use? :cry:

This may sound like I’m a complete wally - but I need to get hold of a DVD RW Burner drive. Anyone know a really dirt,cheap and reliable drive? :slight_smile:

BTW - Thanks once again to everyone here. You really don’t know how much I appreciate the feedback you’re all giving me. Thanks lads! :thumbsup: